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No Two Ways About It, Tonight's Game 5 In Boston Is Massive For Everyone Involved

Nathaniel S. Butler. Getty Images.

How massive is tonight's Celtics/Bucks Game 5 at the Garden? As always with this stuff, we first should look to NBA history. Since the NBA went to the 2-2-1-1-1 format, there have been 216 series that sat at 2-2 heading into Game 5. The team that went on to win that game and takes a 3-2 lead is 184-32. That seems pretty damn good!

You can look even deeper though and get super specific depending on how a current series has played out. If you look at this through the Celts' lense of how they've done this series it breaks down to this

Home loss, home win, road loss, road win

Teams that followed that path and then went on to win Game 5 at home are 13-3 all time in the series. The latest team to win a series with that order of outcomes was the 2019 Nuggets who did it in the first round. I'll also have you know the 1984 Celtics did this against the Lakers in the Finals on the way to their NBA title.

Looking at it from the Bucks angle, they went

Road win, road loss, home win, home loss

If that team wins Game 5 on the road, they are 3-1 all time. The last time we saw a team take a 3-2 lead and win a series with that order of outcomes was the 2007 Spurs who did it in the 2007 2nd round. Yes, the same 2007 Spurs that won the NBA title.

So yeah, tonight is fairly massive for everyone involved no matter how you want to slice it. 

Both sides have shown the ability to win on the other's floor. Both have shown the ability to look dominant for certain stretches of a game. Both have elite star power, there's a reason this has been such an awesome series. Well, maybe awesome isn't the right word. More like excruciatingly stressful. At this point in a 7 game series, you're most likely sick of your opponent's bullshit. We saw things start to boil over in PHX/DAL last night and if you've watched any of the games in this series, you know these two teams have had about enough of each other. That's what makes the games so great. At this point in a series, there are no real surprises. Everyone has already made their adjustments and then the ensuing adjustments to those adjustments. 

For the Celts, it's pretty simple. Just play your game. Be selective on when you double Giannis, continue to build the wall, and trust your individual defense more often than not. Continue to move the ball on offense and resist the urge to fall into bad isolation habits. Stay mentally locked in and don't turn the ball over and you have yourself a great chance to take a 3-2 lead. It's pretty evident that if the Celts force the Bucks to play half court basketball, they have a really really hard time scoring

The live ball turnovers are the killers. If the Celts want to take full control of this series, they can't give up 10+ points in live ball turnovers. If you let the Bucks off the hook like that where they can just score in transition and don't have to execute offensively, you are making your life wayyyyyy harder than it needs to be. This has been true in each of the Celts' losses as well as their double digit deficit in Game 4.

Just like they did in Game 2, tonight is also where you need Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to be nails right from the jump. Once you get this deep into a series, it's about your best players going up a level and not laying an egg. We know Giannis is going to bring it, so it's obviously imperative that both Jayson and Jaylen do the same. I'm not saying we need to see a 17 point quarter with nearly perfect shooting like Jaylen did in the first quarter of Game 2, but I'm not saying I wouldn't love to see it either. The role players obviously will be a factor in how this shakes out, but it starts and ends with the stars. I guess is we won't see another 84% shooting quarter, so the Celts need to see a full 48 minute effort from everyone involved.

I also think that something we saw in the 4th quarter of Game 4 is going to be replicated tonight. That would be this lineup

We didn't see it all that much during the regular season, but it was clearly very impactful on Monday. The defensive switchability, the shooting, and what it then forces the Bucks to do on either end all point to Ime rolling with this lineup again, especially in closing time.

On the Bucks side, they have some decisions to make. My guess is we won't see Coach Bud sit Wes Matthews in favor of George Hill in big minutes despite foul trouble, especially because Matthews has been so elite sticking with Tatum and fighting over screens. That's #1. I also think we see them continue to pay more attention to Al Horford as a pick and pop threat, much like we did in the 4th quarter. That's huge for the sole reason that if Giannis or Lopez is at the 5, it draws them away from the basket and allows Tatum/Brown/Smart to attack the rim. That's how Smart got into the paint so easily in the closing moments of the fourth where he simply used his size to get to his spots and put up a clean look. If the Bucks decide they want to switch, well that should finally open up Jayson Tatum to get the mismatches and looks he really hasn't had all series long. I expect him to take advantage of that.

I'm also under the impression that Bobby Portis will play way more tonight than he did in Game 4. That was really weird to see him only play like 14 minutes, especially with no Middleton. High energy, momentum players like Portis can swing a game, and considering they need someone to step up offensively other than Giannis or Holiday, I expect way more Portis tonight.

I'm interested to see if the Celts learned from their Game 1 mistake and realize how important home wins are and what kind of opportunity they now have. Protect home court, and you advance. It's that simple. Win tonight and who knows, maybe the Bucks call it a season in Game 6 if things don't start off well for them. The elite teams in this league do not play with their food when they get to this spot, just look around the league. The Heat blew the shit out of the Sixers last night and the Suns eventually did the same against the Mavs. 

Now it's the Celts' turn to take care of business and step on some throats. LFG.